Northwest Denver neighborhood finds a way to stop the big, boxy homes that are sweeping Denver

” … In five years’ time or less, there will only be one property on that block with one of the existing homes.”
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2825 W. 25th Ave. Jefferson Park, Nov. 20. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Jefferson Park, Nov. 20. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The 2800 block of West 25th Avenue sums up the state of Northwest Denver perfectly: Rows of century-old homes line the street at the center of the block, some painted in whimsical patterns, slowly being shadowed by the tall, blocky forms of town homes.

"What's on there are some really great old Victorians and some Queen Annes -- the exact kind of character the neighborhood was trying to preserve," said Councilman Rafael Espinoza.

" ... In five years' time or less, there will only be one property on that block with one of the existing homes."

And there's little hope of stopping that change, Espinoza said. So, he and neighborhood leaders are offering a different way for developers to make money building something they do want: retail.

Jefferson Park has little power to stop slot homes, for now.

Denver currently has a moratorium that limits slot homes; that extends until June 2018. The city also expects to change the zoning rules around slot homes early in 2018.

However, the moratorium only restricts certain "forms" of slot homes, and it doesn't apply in "mixed use" and "multi unit" areas -- practically all of Jefferson Park. (Check your neighborhood's zoning here. Orange and red areas on the map still allow slot homes. More detail on slot homes here.)

"I was really upset that we were going to lose yet another one to another slot home," Espinoza said.

So, his new proposal would convert much of the block to "main street" zoning and require that the first floor of new buildings be dedicated to restaurants, bars, shops and other retail. The upper floors could be residential.

That would extend the commercial corridor, which starts just west of the likely doomed historic homes, including Sarto's, Jefferson Park Pub and Sexy Pizza.

In other words, they've given up on keeping the status quo and instead are aiming for development that at least has some "community serving" parts -- businesses, in this case. Espinoza already got a similar rezoning approved on the other side of the street.

2745 W. 25th Ave. Jefferson Park, Nov. 20. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
A developer already has a plan.

Dublin Development is working on a deal to buy several properties on the south side of 25th Avenue. Nothing would stop them from building more town homes on the land -- but they don't have permission to build retail, which is in high demand for the area.

"With the added density that’s coming ... in the next five to six years, there’s just not enough commercial to support the neighborhood," said Jae Edwards, principal at Dublin Development.

If Espinoza's plan is approved, he plans to build a project that would put roughly 30 condos above 5,500 square feet of ground-floor retail. The units would sell between $300,000 and $450,000, he said.

"If we do a commercial building there, it’s going to be very attractive -- a lot of glass, a lot of red brick," he said. Construction could start as early as third quarter of 2018.

Jefferson Park United Neighbors supports the proposal.

"The neighborhood decided that this was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to try to be proactive with development and try to work with them, as opposed to being reactive," said JPUN president Michael Guiietz.

The proposed rezoning also includes some homes that Dublin isn't currently planning to buy. The owners of two properties requested to join the rezoning. One property owner said he opposed the rezoning, but his property is still part of the proposal. Two other owners were "ambivalent," according to JPUN.

The proposal is likely to go before the Denver City Council, which must approve it, in December. And it could

It could point to a new approach, Espinoza said.

He's interested in creating a new planning document that would designate certain parts of Northwest Denver as having "central business character." That move could further encourage the type of project now being discussed on 25th Avenue. It's a way to be "smarter, more surgical," the councilman said.

This story was updated with comment from Michael Guiietz and with additional details on Denver's limits on slot homes.

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